Photography by Jamison Mosley
It’s one of the most recognized events in Central Arkansas – beloved by amateur and proficient cyclists as well as philanthropists. As Tour de Rock celebrates 20 years of fundraising, it has become one of the largest cycling events in Arkansas and the fastest century ride in the South. With more than 1,000 participants, this enthusiasm for the sport supports CARTI patient care.
Steve Bentley, a devoted member of the CARTI Foundation Board of Directors, helped establish Tour de Rock. His father was a CARTI patient and after experiencing a cancer journey with both his parents, Steve wanted to help other families and the CARTI community that cared for his father. “I proposed the idea for a bike ride. It was one of the first major bike rides in Little Rock, just in time with getting the River Trail finished,” he explains. “Since then, Arkansas has become an international bike destination with some of the best bike riding in the country.”
Proceeds from Tour de Rock support the CARTI Patient Assistance Program – providing critical services like transportation, lodging and counseling. It also offers a community for individuals to connect and gather. Riders choose from 25, 50, 62, and 100-mile routes through Central Arkansas with rest stops every 10 miles followed by a party at Heifer International Pavilion. “Tour de Rock is almost a fraternity, in my opinion,” Steve shares. “We have a lot of volunteers that help us every year. Every year we have a commemorative jersey; there are times when I pass riders that have on their previous jerseys.”
As Tour de Rock continues to expand each year, Steve credits CARTI as the beneficiary and mechanism for success. “CARTI and everyone involved are such good folks. They’re excellent and organized; having their support is key to having a very good event.” CARTI President & CEO Adam Head believes there are many families, like Steve’s, that remain committed to the organization. “Steve’s decades-long involvement with the CARTI Foundation and Tour de Rock underscores the strong, supportive relationships we build with our patients and their families,” he elaborates. “Steve understands the uncertainty that can come along with a cancer diagnosis, and he’s been instrumental in helping other Arkansans access the same unparalleled care his father received at CARTI.”
With 18 locations across the state, CARTI serves more than 35,000 patients and makes care accessible to all Arkansans. Tour de Rock has generated more than $2 million towards this mission with a vision that is clear. “At the heart of Tour de Rock is the goal to fight cancer,” emphasizes CARTI Foundation Executive Director Jennifer Selig. “We’re thankful to Steve for helping us establish this race 20 years ago and for his continued support and involvement.” Steve wants participants in Tour de Rock to know that their hard work is worth it. “Throughout the years, we’ve had 200 or so people that ride every year. Everything we raise goes to the patients – bike riders can make a personal difference.”